The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

How to Avoid Journalistic Hindenburgs

Posted on | January 23, 2013 | 17 Comments

“I’m the managing editor of Culture11 (, a new online magazine/social network that was started by Bill Bennett, David Kuo, Steve Forbes, et al. Today is our first day and rather than trying to get attention using traditional media, we’ve decided to announce our launch by reaching out to our friends.
“With your help, we can make Culture11 something truly extraordinary — an online destination that has the editorial excellence of a great magazine, the thrill of a terrific conversation, and the comfort of a supportive community all rolled into one.”

Joe Carter, e-mail, August 2008

“Ponder the yawning chasm between David Kuo and ‘the next Cameron Crowes and Hunter Thompsons.’ It’s as if one day Kenny G announced he was looking for ‘the next Ramones.’
“Personnel is policy. Imagine Hunter S. Thompson walking into the offices of Culture11, wearing his Acapulco shirt and aviator shades, reeking of gin, with a head full of mescaline and a satchel full of felonies. David Kuo would call the cops.”

Robert Stacy McCain, “Good-bye, Culture11,” Jan. 30, 2009

Some people go unscathed from disaster to disaster. Perhaps the most eminent survivor of the Culture11 catastrophe was Conor Friedersdorf, now employed at a Scientology-funded magazine called The Atlantic, bashing Rush Limbaugh and arguing for legalized marijuana.

Joe Carter, the former Mike Huckabee campaign staffer who bought into David Kuo’s lunatic idea that Culture11 would be like “Rolling Stone in the ’70s,” ended up at First Things. Peter Suderman is a senior editor at Reason. James Poulos went on to Ricochet.

Others were not so lucky: Kuo, the Republican hack who burned through a reported million dollars of start-up capital in six months at Culture11, has disappeared from public view. Although I had been solicited to write for Culture11 — originally named “Liberty Wire” — I avoided that Hindenburg-at-Lakehurst trip after reading a New Republic item:

David Kuo . . . a former Special Assistant to President Bush and author of tell-all Bush indictment Tempting Faith, is going to be the CEO.

As soon as I learned Kuo was involved, I e-mailed back to the young staffer who had solicited my contribution, telling her:

  1. Under no circumstance would I ever consent to write for any project connected to David Kuo; and
  2. She’d be smart to get the hell out of there immediately.

Personnel is policy. Kuo has never been associated with anything but failure. He couldn’t make a profit on the snow-cone concession in Hell.

Memories of the Cutlture11 debacle are fresh in my mind today because part of the start-up money Kuo pissed away on his doomed vanity project (the smoldering digital crater is a “404,” so that not even the archives remain) was an investment by Steve Forbes. And another Forbes-funded venture is making news, not in a good way:

Over the weekend, professional golfer Phil Mickelson complained about tax increases (including state income taxes in California) that he said had pushed his marginal rate to 63 percent: “I’ve got to make some decisions on what to do.” That incited a scolding from Syracuse University professor Len Burman, who said Mickelson should “stop whining” because he was so “lucky” to be one of the world’s highest-earning athletes.
What is perhaps surprising is that Burman published his attack on Mickelson’s “whining” at Forbes.
Forbes was once a leading advocate of free-market economic policy . . .
Yet in recent years, the online version of Forbes has become increasingly notorious as a hive of strident left-wing opinion. . . .
What happened to Forbes? Two words: Lewis Dvorkin.
A former AOL executive, Dvorkin got funding from Forbes in 2009 to start a Web site, True/Slant, that lasted a little more than a year before it was taken over by Forbes in a deal that brought Dvorkin into the company with the title of Chief Product Officer. . . . Dvorkin’s July 2010 deal also brought under the Forbes online umbrella several of True/Slant’s left-wing staff and contributors, including [Steve] Zwick, [Rick] Ungar and, apparently, Professor Len Burman.
My friend Jim Lakely at the Heartland Institute is dismayed that Phil Mickelson apologized after his scolding from Burman. I’m more dismayed that Dvorkin’s left-wing takeover at Forbes has proven the truth of O’Sullivan’s First Law, formulated by former National Review editor John O’Sullivan: “All organizations that are not actually right-wing will over time become left-wing.”

Maybe Forbes should hire David Kuo. I’m sure he’s available.



17 Responses to “How to Avoid Journalistic Hindenburgs”

  1. Evi L. Bloggerlady
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 12:22 pm

    I was wondering what was happening with Forbes. Where is Steve? Doesn’t he read his own rag?

  2. TC_LeatherPenguin
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

    The only time I ever see/hear him is if he shows up on Varney’s FOX Business show.

  3. McGehee
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 12:54 pm

    I met Steve Forbes when he campaigned in Fairbanks in 1996. I asked him about gun rights. I really wasn’t impressed.

  4. Finrod Felagund
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 1:13 pm

    Some such endeavors aren’t even Hindenburgs. At least the Hindenburg went down in a ball of fire; a lot of these just end up vanishing quietly and unlamented.

  5. Bob Belvedere
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

    Which song from Led Zeppelin I is appropriate here?

    -Your Time Is Gonna Come?

    -Dazed And Confused?

  6. M. Thompson
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 2:32 pm

    It’s simple. Know the boss and his environment before you go in.

  7. Joe Carter
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

    ***Kuo has never been associated with anything but failure.***

    Is that right? Kuo was assistant policy director at Empower America, which became FreedomWorks. Interesting that you think that organization is a failure.

    ***Kuo . . . has disappeared from public view.***

    Indeed, he has. Perhaps that’s because he suffers from terminally ill brain cancer. You stay classy, RSM.

  8. richard mcenroe
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 3:25 pm

    As said in the Democrat hate thread, they never forget and they never stop.

  9. Chas C-Q
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    Major digression: by my understanding, John O’Sullivan, while citing Robert Conquest by name in his NR article, mislabeled Conquest’s Third Law and misappropriated Conquest’s Second Law. Will someone please correct me if I’ve got it wrong?

  10. K-Bob
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 6:29 pm

    That’s not funny, asswipe. My Mom died of cancer.

  11. Bob Belvedere
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 7:55 pm

    Empower America? That haven of conservative Ideologues?

  12. AnonymousDrivel
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

    “A former AOL executive…”

    Not only worked at AOL but is formerly! employed by it? That sounds pretty bad. Did he leave of his own volition, or was he forced out because he was too ineffectual for or damaging to even AOL, a stumbling catastrophe?

  13. Quartermaster
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:43 pm

    “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” by the Strolling Bones, would probably be the most appropriate.

  14. Quartermaster
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    He wasn’t trying to be funny. Perhaps if you weren’t an *$$wipe yourself, you would have enough on the ball to realize that.

  15. Quartermaster
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 8:48 pm

    Whether that’s the case or not, and I don’t if it is, O’Sullivan is correct in the assessment. O’Sullivan was a victim of Buckley’s increasing PC on immigration. Brimelow was another. O’Sullivan writes for NR on occasion, but those occasions are not frequent, and Brimelow doesn’t write for them at all.

    Lowry is right in the rut established by Buckley at the end of his life, and it is no coincidence that Rich Lowry is a coward.

  16. K-Bob
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

    No, he was playing the cancer card. A dick move. We all have that same celestial clock hanging over our heads, ticking away the seconds. Just because your card is punched doesn’t mean you escape all liabilities in this life.

    I was being sarcastic. He deserved it. I was also telling the truth. My Mom would have been disgusted at his ploy to make Stacy look like he was “taking advantage” which obviously he was not doing.

    Besides, I never claimed I wasn’t an asswipe. So I have double the moral authority here.

  17. K-Bob
    January 23rd, 2013 @ 10:43 pm

    I thought Buckley seemed a bit less the paragon of conservatism when I saw him later in his life. I never paid attention to him when he was at his most “active” part of life. I was busy being a rock musician and computer geek.

    But as I got older, people I trusted really had great things to say about him, so I tried to pay attention. But I just wasn’t getting a strong, “conservative” vibe from the guy.

    I thought it was just me.